Noun – Quarry
Let’s take a look at both kinds of quarries.
The first “quarry” came into English through French, ultimately from the Latin cor, meaning “heart.”
The meaning morphed from “heart” to “entrails” to “the body of an animal that was hunted” to “the thing you’re hunting.”
And so today, your quarry is the thing you’re after. It can be, very literally, the animal you’re hunting. Or, figuratively, it can be the thing you’re trying to get, as if it’s an animal you’re hunting.
Coincidentally, we have a second English “quarry” with a totally separate origin. This other “quarry” means “a place where you excavate rocks.”
The origins of this “quarry” are unclear, but it might trace back to a Latin word meaning “a place where stones are squared” (that is, chiseled into nice neat shapes), and so it might be related to other words about squares, like “quadrant” and “quadruple.”
Anyway, this kind of literal quarry is a wealth of rocks to be dug out and used. So, figuratively, a quarry can also be any rich source of material.
Part of speech:
Often a noun: “He’s looking for his quarry;” “It happened near the quarry.”
Also sometimes a verb, meaning “to dig out:” “We quarried these stones from over there;” “Maybe we can quarry the information we need from these books.”
Other common forms:
Quarries, quarried, quarrying.
how to use it:
Pick “quarry” when you need a simple, earthy, old-fashioned metaphor.
Whether you’re using it in its hunting sense or its rock-digging sense, you’re suggesting that someone is both eager and effortful in their pursuit of something.
You might talk about people seeking, chasing, or hunting for their quarry. “He’s hunting around in the antiques stores today. His quarry: vintage silverware.”
Or, you might refer to some place, resource, or situation as a quarry–again, with the implication that although it’s full of great stuff, you really have to work to dig it out. “Gutenberg.org is a quarry for bookworms.”
Here’s “quarry” meaning “a thing being hunted:”
“Sometimes [the eagles’] reach exceeds their grasp; as they flap and soar away from the chaos of the open garbage pit, their quarry slips through their talons.”
— David Gutman, Seattle Times, 18 February 2020
“The gowns were sewn by Jan Durham, a quilter and self-described ‘fabric hoarder’ who searches for her quarry at thrift stores and estate sales.”
— Mattathias Schwartz, New York Times, 6 May 2020
And here’s “quarry” meaning “a place rich with material:”
“It was from Greece that we received our Christianity–it was Greece, still, as of old, the imaginative, the enthusiastic, that supplied Europe with her new mythology–with the whole quarry of legends, ceremonies and superstitions…”
— Alexander William C. Lindsay, Sketches of the History of Christian Art, Volume 1, 1847